The Coppock Guide, which has been weakening for almost 2 years, is now confirming a bear market. That’s bad news for the market in the near-term, but has positive implications down the road. This important indicator was developed more than 50 years ago by Edwin S. Coppock and has often been described as “a barometer of the market’s emotional state.” As such, it methodically tracks the ebb and flow of equity markets, moving slowly from one emotional extreme to the other. By calculation, the Coppock Guide is the 10-month weighted moving total of a 14-month rate of change plus an 11-month rate of change of a market index. While that sounds complicated, it’s actually an oscillator that reverses direction when long-term momentum in the market peaks in one direction or the other.
Historically, the value of the Coppock Guide lies in signaling or confirming low risk buying opportunities that emerge once a bear market bottom is in place (black dotted lines on the graph below). And since market bottoms are typically sudden V-shaped reversals, it works amazingly well – as it did shortly after the bottom in 2009.
Unfortunately, the Coppock Guide is generally not as useful in identifying market peaks. One reason is that bull market tops are usually slow, rounding formations in which momentum –and the Coppock Guide– peak up to a year or more ahead of the market. Yet there are certain instances when it has proven invaluable at a market top…
In the late 1960s a technician named Don Hahn observed another phenomenon about the Coppock Guide. When a double top occurs without the graph falling to “0” –a phenomenon that Hahn referred to as a “Killer Wave”– it confirms an extended bull market where psychological excesses can reach extremes. In those situations, the appearance of a second peak generally means a bear market has just begun or is not far off (see red dashed lines). The late 1990s was an exception.
Killer Waves are rare, and they can be dangerous. This is only the 8th bull market in the past 95 years to see a double top in the Coppock. The table at right shows that in 5 of the previous cases the second peaks were associated with the start of the more notorious bear markets of the past century: 1929, 1969, 1973, 2000, and 2007.